DecryptedTech

Thursday08 December 2022

The Slippery Slope of Censorship Happening Around the Russian Invasion of Ukraine


Reading time is around minutes.

The internet is a great thing. It has allowed peoples of different nations and geographical locations to meet, talk, share information and ideas. The massively connected world we live thanks to the internet is one where information of all kinds is literally at our fingertips. Hovering over all these good things has always been the shadow of censorship, control and digital spying. It has also given rise to crime on a massive scale, multiple new types of bullying, harassment, and assault. Still the idea of massive censorship and information control is one that most would agree is a bad thing.

Tech companies have become emboldened by recent political events to push for more and more censorship efforts. Whether these are labels attached to items or posts, shadow banning, out right banning or other efforts to remove content they do not agree with, the net effect is the same. Information is removed or hidden from being reviewed by anyone. We saw this go into high gear around the 2020 election and has not slowed down. Even the use of certain words in a post or image will get a post tagged with a label these days with no real effort put into knowing if the post is misinformation or not.

Now with Russian invasion of Ukraine tech companies have gone from high gear to hitting the nitrous button. Tech companies have stopped issuing or renewing digital certificates, cut off backbone services, gaming, streaming, and social media services in the country. While the justification of this might be valid (the invasion) the method, to me, is not. Not because of the effect on Russian businesses and people (although that is bad enough), but because the way this was employed in such a broad blanket it concerning. The way these companies and organizations have moved on this one political target while doing very little to curb spam, ransomware, and other cyber crime could be an indicator that they would be willing to make this type of move against anyone they disagree with.

The moves seem a lot like virtue signaling and sucking up to the current administration more than an actual effort to effect change. It also creates a massive potential for cybercrime. Just as prohibition was responsible for creating many of the US’ criminal organizations, cutting off people from legitimate services pushes them right into the hands of criminal organizations. They are either going to be pushed to a 100% fraudulent service where the lose what little they have, or they get pushed into someone that will charge them many times what they should be paying for the service. It is a lose/lose for the people in the affect regions.

This concern is not new either. Back when ISPs were looking to throttle 3rd party (not owned by the ISP) services, we expressed our concern for where this would lead. The same thing was also brought up during the MPAA and RIAA piracy wars where legislation was pushed like SOPA and PIPA. Once again as Facebook, Google, Amazon and others started targeting, demonetizing, and “de-platforming” anyone that was not in lockstep with their views. These things were and are still very bad for a free and open communication network. Although many thought that it was not a big deal and continued that mindset through the death of net neutrality (some still think like this).

The claim that this is somehow only going to be used in this one instance is incredibly naive or willfully ignorant of history and how this type of technical censorship works and has worked over the last decade and more. If they are doing this now, they will do it again and it can be more and more focused on what government X or Y does not like or disagrees with. It is a bad thing and one that we simply cannot get behind no matter how wrong we feel the invasion is. This type of latitude and support for disconnecting an entity from the internet is just not right.

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